What is HIV? Stands for: Human Immunodeficiency Virus
HIV is a Virus such as HIV cannot grow or reproduce on their own, they need to infect the cells of a living organism in order to replicate ( make new copies of themselves) The Human immune system usually finds and kills viruses fairly quickly, but HIV attacks the immune system itself- the very thing that would normally get rid of a virus.
With around 2.7 million people becoming infected with HIV in 2008, there are now an estimated 33 Million people around the world who are living with HIV, including millions who have developed AIDS.
Summary National HIV/AIDS Strategy Targets for 2015
Reducing New HIV infections
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
AIDS is a medical condition. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infections.
Since AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, an unprecedented number of people have been affected by the global AIDS epidemic. Today, there are an estimated 33.4 million people living with HIV and AIDS and each year around two million people die from AIDS related illnesses.
What is the connection between HIV and AIDS?
HIV causes AIDS by damaging the immune system cells until the immune system can no longer fight off other infections that it would usually be able to prevent.
It takes 10 years on average for someone with HIV to develop AIDS. However, this average is based on the person with HIV having a reasonable diet, and someone who is malnourished may well progress from HIV to AIDS more rapidly
What causes AIDS?
AIDS is caused by HIV.
HIV is a virus that gradually attacks immune system cells. As HIV progressively damages these cells, the body becomes more vulnerable to infections, which it will have difficulty in fighting off. It is at the point of very advanced HIV infection that a person is said to have AIDS. It can be years before HIV has damaged the immune system enough for AIDS to develop. (Between Latinos from 7 to 8 years develop AIDS but depend each person).
What are the symptoms of AIDS?
A person is diagnosed with AIDS when they have developed an AIDS related condition or symptom, called an opportunistic infection, or an AIDS related cancer. The infections are called ‘opportunistic’ because they take advantage of the opportunity offered by a weakened immune system.
It is possible for someone to be diagnosed with AIDS even if they have not developed an opportunistic infection. AIDS can be diagnosed when the number of immune system cells (CD4 cells) in the blood of an HIV positive person drops below a certain level.
Antiretroviral drugs keep the levels of HIV in the body at a low level, so that the immune system is able to recover and work effectively. Antiretroviral drugs enable many HIV positive people to live long and healthy lives.
Starting antiretroviral treatment for HIV infection involves commitment -drugs have to be taken every day, and for the rest of a person's life. Adhering to HIV treatment is important, particularly because not doing so increases the risk of drug resistance. Side effects to the HIV drugs can make adherence difficult, and are sometimes very severe. There are ways of reducing the impact of these side effects, but sometimes it is necessary to change to an alternative HIV treatment regime.
There are more than 20 antiretroviral drugs approved for the treatment of HIV infection in the US and Europe, as well as many new HIV drugs currently undergoing trials. Although treatment for HIV has become more widely available in recent years, access to antiretroviral treatment is limited in some parts of the world due to a lack of funding.
How is AIDS treated?
Antiretroviral treatment can prolong the time between HIV infection and the onset of AIDS. Modern combination therapy is highly effective and someone with HIV who is taking treatment could live for the rest of their life without developing AIDS.
An AIDS diagnosis does not necessarily equate to a death sentence. Many people can still benefit from starting antiretroviral therapy even once they have developed an AIDS defining illness. Better treatment and prevention for opportunistic infections have also helped to improve the quality and length of life for those diagnosed with AIDS.
Treating some opportunistic infections is easier than others. Infections such as herpes zoster and candidiasis of the mouth, throat or vagina, can be managed effectively in most environments. On the other hand, more complex infections such as toxoplasmosis, need advanced medical equipment and infrastructure, which are lacking in many resource-poor areas.
It is also important that treatment is provided for AIDS related pain, which is experienced by almost all people in the very advanced stages of HIV infection.
How is HIV passed on?
HIV is found in the blood and the sexual fluids of an infected person, and the breast milk of an infected woman. HIV transmission occurs when a sufficient quantity of these fluids get into someone else's bloodstream.
There are various ways a person can become infected with HIV:
Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person: sexual intercourse without a condom carries the risk of HIV infection.
Contact with an infected person's blood: If sufficient blood from somebody who has HIV enters someone else's body, then HIV can be passed on in the blood.
Use of infected blood products: many people in the past have been infected with HIV by use of Blood Transfusions and blood products which were contaminated with the virus. In much of the world this is no longer a significant risk, as blood donations are routinely tested for HIV.
Injections Drugs. HIV can be passed on when injecting equipment that has been used by an infected person is then used by someone else. In many parts of the world, often because it is illegal to possess them, injecting equipment or works are shared.
From mother to child: HIV can be transmitted from an infected woman to her baby during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding.
Certain groups of people, such as injecting drugs users, sex workers, prisoners, and men who have sex with men, have been particularly affected by HIV. However, HIV can infect anybody, and everyone needs to know how they can and can't become infected with HIV.
Is there a cure for HIV/AIDS?
NO cure for HIV/AIDS. Only there is Treatment to reduce the virus in the organism (Viral Load) and to increase the defenses of the body (CD4). The only way to stay safe is to be aware of how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent HIV Infection.
Testing for HIV
It is important for a person to get an HIV test if they think they may have been at risk of HIV infection.
There are various types of HIV test, but the most commonly used - the antibody or ELISA test detects HIV antibodies in a person's blood. It is necessary to wait at least 3 months after the last possible exposure before having an HIV antibody test, to be certain of an accurate result.
The prospect of receiving a positive test result (meaning that a person is infected with HIV) may be daunting, but learning that you are HIV positive is the first step to getting support and staying healthy. HIV testing is also very important for stopping the spread of HIV, as somebody who is aware of their HIV status can take steps to ensure they do not pass on the virus.
Why do people still develop AIDS today?
In some Latin-American countries with few resources, the antiretroviral treatment is not accessible for all. And they cannot confront the economic cost of a treatment.
many resource-poor countries antiretroviral treatment is not widely available. Even in wealthier countries, such as America, many individuals are not covered by health insurance and cannot afford treatment.
Some people who became infected with HIV in the early years of the epidemic before combination therapy was available, have subsequently developed drug resistance and therefore have limited treatment options.
Many people are never tested for HIV and only become aware they are infected with the virus once they have developed an AIDS related illness. These people are at a higher risk of mortality, as they tend to respond less well to treatment at this stage. Sometimes people taking treatment are unable to adhere to, or tolerate the side effects of drugs.
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